Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

That concludes the Tory-UUP link…

On Hearts & Minds this evening, Noel Thompson asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland:

“The election of Martin McGuinness as First Minister should mean no difference [to unionists] and is in no way a setback?”

The Secretary of State’s response:

“I think the election of Martin McGuinness would be an extraordinary endorsement of the progress that has been made here.”

This concludes the relationship between the Tories and the Ulster Unionist Party.

The hesitation he showed during the answer makes me feel that he immediately regretted his choice of words. This will no doubt damage his relationship with unionist politicians.

*UPDATE: Here’s the H&M programme from last night at the point from which I’ve quoted.

One UUP response is a demand for the SoS to step down. Here’s a BBC report which includes the TUV position.

Here’s O’Neill’s take on things, and here’s a local Tory response to the interview.

Filed under: Conservatives, UUP, ,

Corporation tax – what will they do?

Tax by definition

Owen Paterson is saying again today that the Assembly should take up tax varying powers and settle discussion over Corporation Tax themselves.

Mr Paterson said: “The basic facts are, if we can get this through, and we’ve got to persuade the Treasury and we’ve got to persuade the European Commission, so we have got quite a long way to go on this, but bluntly, we won’t get there if we don’t have enthusiasm from Northern Ireland.”

We are now a long way from the days of Varney (I & II) – the government is clearly saying that it wants to take this further.

The pay off for the government is that they claw back £300million from the block grant, so this is understandably attractive for them. And in addition, Ireland’s next Taioseach told the Alliance Party conference on Saturday that he is in favour of all-island tax harmonisation.

As with all things of substance in Northern Ireland, little can happen without approval from external powers – so the signs are good. Northern Ireland’s political parties could get what they wished for. (And if the UCUNF project produced nothing else then it did secure a corporation tax commitment from the Tories which Paterson is now progressing.)

Paterson has now put it up to local parties to demonstrate their enthusiasm. In fact, they did so earlier this month. As the squabbling continues over the draft Budget, could this policy have the potential to bring the parties together?

(Sammy Wilson will need to be placated though. He hasn’t been convinced of low corporation tax argument for quite some time.)

In the corporation tax issue we now have a signal policy that can demonstrate to the public at large that local reps have the capacity to agree and to deliver. What will they do?

A next step could be for Jim Nicholson, Diane Dodds and Bairbre de Brun to publicly declare their willingness to push the case in Brussels. What will they do?

Filed under: Conservatives, economy,

An open letter to Owen Paterson: Where now for the *UK* Conservative Party?

Three weeks ago, myself and another pro-Union blogger contacted Owen Paterson’s office. To date, we have had no reply from Mr. Paterson or his staff to our email and we are sending it this morning in the form of an open letter in hope of some kind of response:

Dear Mr. Paterson,

We are writing to you concerning the position of the Conservative Party vis-à-vis its activity in Northern Ireland. As Conservative and Unionist bloggers we have been firm supporters of Mr. Cameron’s policy of political engagement in the province, and we hope to be able to continue to facilitate in our small way the efforts of the party there. In recent weeks there has been some confusion about the future of the party in Northern Ireland, and if you were able to clarify that position for us, we would then be able to pass it to our readership.

Kind Regards,

Dilettante, oneill

In interests of transparency: Dilettante is a full member of the Conservative party; whilst I have been a member of both the Friends of the Conservatives and the UUP previously, I no longer have any official connection with either party.

Our real, “off-line names” have been used in the communication to Owen Paterson.

Why did we write it?

As enthusiastic supporters of the original premise behind the Conservative and UUP link-up three years ago, we had been bemused at the turn of events pre-Christmas when the backroom deal between officials of the two parties effectively isolated Northern Ireland once again from the mainstream of United Kingdom politics.

At the time the Conservative leadership gave no public explanation for this retreat; it was also unclear as to whether they saw any future for the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland or indeed for the concept of a genuinely UK-wide pro-Union party.

They shouldn’t be that difficult questions to address but they are ones Owen Paterson and others remain reluctant, well over a month later, to publicly answer.

And with the news of an *arrangement* being reached between the DUP and UUP in North and West Belfast, can we now also assume that the UK Conservative party is an integral part of what is obviously an ongoing “Unionist Unity” project?

Cross-posted at:  Dilettante, Slugger OToole, Unionist Lite

Filed under: Conservatives, unionist unity?, ,

Danny Alexander’s day in the trenches…

This video has just been uploaded to the HM Treasury youtube account. It tracks Danny Alexander across the best part of 12 hours during the CSR announcements. He starts off perky enough but the realisation that a Paxo interview lies in wait starts to dawn on him at about 3mins 50secs. It’s an alternate view to CSR day which I found a little more interesting.

I’ve also uploaded the full CSR doc into the widget.


Filed under: business, Coalition Government, Conservatives, economy, finances, liberals, , ,

Tonight’s Conservative PPB

PPBs fascinate me. On a general note though, I dislike the straight piece to camera – nothing televisual in it. Always seems to be a waste of the opportunity provided by the medium.

Overall, this has more than a hint of ‘Labour isn’t working’ about it. They need to be careful about this – lest the Tories connive to invite broader comparisons with the ‘Winter of Discontent’. Any other thoughts?

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Filed under: Coalition Government, conferences, Conservatives, Uncategorized,

Corporation tax win?

The Northern Ireland Secretary has said the British government is examining ways to change corporation tax levels in Northern Ireland to attract new investment.

via RTÉ News: Plans to change NI corporation tax levels.

Will check this up later…

Filed under: conferences, Conservatives,

The Problems for GB Parties standing in NI – The Tories

The major ideal at the heart of the CU project was that the alliance offered a way of offering people within Northern Ireland the opportunity to vote for a party capable of national government; a mainstream, mainland UK political party, in their case the Conservative Party. When some countered that the unionist party contained some members with more left of centre political views the suggestion was made that following the success of the CUs (illusory as that proved) the other GB political parties, Labour and the Liberal Democrats would also stand. This notion is of course far from new: it inspired much of the UUP intergrationalist movement of the 1980s and for a time seemed to have significant traction within the UUP. The failure of the CUs at the Westminster election has led to considerable soul searching especially within that section of unionism which was highly attracted to the CU project. The recent news that the NI Tories are in some confusion as to the way ahead is unsurprising and although the concept of a new centre right party is interesting it again looks like suspiciously like a politicos dream rather than a viable political alternative.
Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Conservatives

Do unionist parties do the Union more harm than good?

In the wake of the general election, Open Unionism has hosted a vigorous debate about the future of Ulster unionism.  So far, it has hinged on the ‘unity’ issue.  Should so-called unionist parties in Northern Ireland combine their forces in a single group, or at least coordinate their efforts come election time, in order to consolidate the ‘pro-Union’ vote?

A number of problems with this project have been raised, on Open Unionism and elsewhere.  In a Belfast Telegraph article, I take the argument further, and float the rather provocative notion that unionist parties in Northern Ireland might do unionism, and the Union, more harm than good.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Conservatives, unionist unity?

The big task that’s facing the next UK government…

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By St Etienne

Just a quick(ish!) note to highlight an important contribution from respected journalist & historian Max Hastings on just how big a task the next government will have in the UK. Food for thought, and locally is indicative why we need a strong showing not just for the Tory-UUP alliance at the next election but for the idea within conservatism generally that the tenure must be prepared to lead a wide-ranging rethink on British lifestyle and attitudes.

For those unwilling to register to view the article, a synopsis follows:

As if emerging from a shelter after an air raid, many people look around, behold an apparently un scarred landscape and say: “Was that the financial crisis, then? It wasn’t so bad.” Such a view seems to represent monumental self-delusion… It seems hard to overstate the pain in store when the next government embarks on the steps necessary to restore the public finances. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have wrecked the economy.

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Filed under: Conservatives, finances, guest blogger

GUEST BLOG 1: Bring it on Labour, says Sir Reg

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By Sam McBride

News Letter political correspondent

Ahead of the Ulster Unionist Party conference, I interviewed UUP leader Sir Reg Empey about the state of the party, his own future and the Tory alliance.

But, as ever with these things, only so much could get onto the allocated page in today’s edition of the News Letter. At Bobball’s invitation, I’ve pulled out some of the interview which didn’t make it into the paper because of space.

Much of what Sir Reg had to say was a stout defence of the Conservative link. Those comments were made ahead of the open letter to Sir Reg released last night by Chris McGimpsey, Roy Garland, George Fleming and Newtownards Councillor Ronnie Ferguson, calling on him to ditch the Conservatives.

There is little prospect of that happening unless there is a massive uprising from among the roughly 3,000 Ulster Unionist members but it will definitely be one of the talking points at the conference. One of the interesting things Sir Reg said was that, although firmly aligned with the Tories, he would like to see Labour putting up candidates in Northern Ireland elections.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Conservatives, guest blogger, UUP conference

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